ST. MARYS — State and local representatives and community members gathered for the 23rd Elk County Farm Bureau Legislative Farm Tour Friday.
The annual event began at St. Marys Stone, Mulch and More on Locust Road with ECFB Governmental Relation Director Ernest Mattiuz welcoming attendees.
Representatives from several agencies and entities, including the Elk County Conservation District, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Deborah Pontzer from U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office, North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission, Ridgway Borough Council and Ridgway Mayor Guillermo Udarbe, Elk County Sheriff Todd Caltagarone, Elk County Treasurer Peggy Schneider, Fritz Lecker for Elk County Commissioner and Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Gabler, took part in the tour.
“This is the largest grassroots organization in Pennsylvania that advocates for legislation to enhance agriculture and way of life,” Mattiuz said.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has more than 58,000 members statewide, he said, and there are 54 county farm bureaus.
Mattiuz said the tour would move from St. Marys to Chicken Hill Distillery in Kersey, where he would discuss “issues for action” that the PFB is following in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C.
Chris Kline, owner of St. Marys Stone, Mulch and More, said the current property was formerly Babcock Lumber, and sat empty for 10-12 years after it closed.
The business does a lot of house coal services, Kline said, and he can remember shoveling coal into people’s basements when it first started. He also built houses for eight years.
St. Marys Stone, Mulch and More sells everything by the pound except for mulch, which is sold by the yard.
Kline said the business expanded by purchasing nearby properties, and he also bought Nussbaum Feed Store after moving to the area.
“All the work we have done here, we’ve done ourselves,” Kline added.
Kline delivers sheds as well, which are made from wood cut by the Amish. Another interesting fact he mentioned is St. Marys Stone, Mulch and More provides the wood used for cooking at Italian Oven of DuBois.
Chicken Hill Distillery Co-Owners Dan Meyer and Chris Kline welcomed attendees to the facility at 277 Fairview Road, where they discussed how to make locally-sourced moonshine, and the importance of farming to the process.
Mattiuz talked about the “birth of moonshine,” before Kline took attendees inside for the other half of the tour.
“Here we are 225 years later, standing at a distillery in western Pennsylvania,” he said.
A tasting and gift bag was offered the tour goers before Mattiuz gave his legislative speech at the picnic tables set up outside.